The Atlantic Divison: Centers Galore
Has anyone else noticed how deep the Atlantic division is at center? Some teams have two guys that can be number ones everywhere else.
The New Jersey Devils start off with a young, passionate, gritty center. Zach Parise has accumulated 159 points in his first three seasons and over sixty in the past two. That is pretty impressive since he plays for a team that has as much trouble scoring as they do. Parise's a special kind of player though, he never takes a day off unlike most athletes in any sport today.
The New York Rangers are amongst the best in the Atlantic with the former Devil Scott Gomez leading the pack. Gomez can carry the puck through the neutral zone with speed, and rip a quick low shot that seems to give off some rebounds. Gomez also joined the Rangers PK unit which was ranked sixth in the NHL.
Another quality center, Chris Drury is part of the Rangers deep group of centers. Although he had a weak 2007-2008 season he still showed us flashes of his clutch abilities. Still, the Rangers expect a stronger Drury this season like most hockey fans do.
Brandon Dubinsky was the Rangers rookie center who tallied 40 points and was one of four Rangers to play in all 82 games. After a few hiccups early in the season Dubinsky set into his NHL groove centering the Rangers top line with Jagr and Straka. It will be interesting to see how Dubinsky does without two reliable veterans at his side.
The Philadelphia Flyers have three centers that can all play a first line role.
Jeff Carter, who is my personal favorite of the three, plays both ends of the ice very well. He doesn't put the most points up, but he plays plus hockey and never lags on a back check.
Danny Briere, who is a major offensive threat and a very good hockey player, strikes me as overrated. Not many people realize this, but he was a -22 rating last season. I don't care what a person thinks of the plus/minus stat, when you're that low on a playoff team something is very wrong. He was also a -3 in the playoffs even though he was a big part of the reason the Flyers were able to advance in the first two rounds, especially over the Capitals. Briere obviously lacks some defensive awareness, but is still a very good center.
The 5'11" 195 pound Mike Richards may be small, but he still plays a big mans game. Whether or not this causes injury in the future remains to be seen. Until then Richards deserves credit for his +14 rating and 75 points. He also has a physical element in his game and he isn't afraid to do battle in the corners with the big men.
Well we have to save the best for last, don't we? The Pittsburgh Penguins have more talent at center than any NHL team.
Jordan Staal hit the sophomore slump this season, but any fan who watched him in the playoffs was somewhat impressed. He had a very good rookie season and Penguins fans expect that Staal back next season.
Evgeni Malkin didn't only rise to the challenge when Crosby got hurt, he rose above it. Dominating game after game Malkin finished the season with career highs in goals (47) and assists (59) to finish with 106 points. Malkin certainly showed use last season he has what it takes to be the best.
Sidney Crosby may cry, whimper, and whine when he doesn't get his way. That doesn't stop me from admitting that he is the best and most dangerous player in hockey, yes he is better than Ovechkin. Crosby had 73 points in 53 games last season and tallied over 100 points in his first two seasons. Every season he has had in the NHL he has averaged over one point per game. Also, Crosby averages over a point per game in the playoffs as well. What is the scariest part of the 20 year old? He has not even hit his prime yet. Hopefully he won't be bottle fed over the next couple of years, I would really like to not hate Crosby and enjoy watching such a talented player.
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